A child’s relationship with a grandparent is often a special one, full of wisdom and wonder.

No wonder, then, that since grandparents are such important figures in real life, the grandparents who appear on TV and in movies tend to be just as captivating.

Fictional grandparents, full of warmth and humor, can stand in for the real thing — and just as easily take our hearts.

In honor of Grandparents’ Day on September 8, here are 16 of our favorite onscreen grandparents.

1. The grandfather in The Princess Bride

This movie is a classic, combining an epic love story, adventure, and revenge. But the most touching moments are arguably between the grandfather (portrayed by Peter Falk) and his grandson (Fred Savage), who’s sick in bed. The grandfather becomes the film’s narrator, recounting the tale that comprises the rest of the plot.

Watching the movie, plenty of people were surely inspired to seek out stories from their own grandparents, or tell some fantastic tales to their grandchildren.

2. Sophia Petrillo from Golden Girls

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Every Golden Girls character is iconic, but Sophia (played by Estelle Getty), stood out as being especially hilarious, witty, and no-nonsense.

Known for her snappy one-liners like “Jealousy is a very ugly thing, Dorothy — and so are you in anything backless,” Sophia always had a huge heart and cared deeply for her family and loved ones.

3. Grandpa Edwin in Little Miss Sunshine

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In this charming film about a young girl’s beauty-pageant dreams, Grandpa Edwin (Alan Arkin), wormed his way right into audiences’ hearts by believing in his granddaughter and standing up for her at any cost.

His character is foul-mouthed and was kicked out of his retirement home for a drug problem, but his love for his granddaughter is pure and impossible not to be fond of.

4. Jay Pritchett in Modern Family

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The patriarch of the title family, Jay (Ed O’Neill) is navigating his second marriage to a younger woman and the antics of his four grandchildren and stepson. Jay may have a stubborn streak, but he always puts his family first and is clearly doing his best to do what’s best for all of their specific needs and wants.

5. Dowager Countess Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey

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Played by the ever enchanting Dame Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess is brilliantly blunt. She knows exactly what she likes and how she wants her house to be run, and is never shy to share her opinion, no matter how her granddaughters might react. Dame Smith brings charming British humor to her character and the show as a whole.

6-7. Emily and Richard Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls

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While the pair can sometimes seem a bit stuffy and traditional — and at the very least set in their values and tied to their wealthy, comfortable way of life — they care deeply for their granddaughter, Rory, and always want the best for her. Weekly dinners at Emily and Richard’s (Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann’s) house were an iconic part of the TV show, in which family tensions rose and plenty of quick-witted dialogue ensued.

8. Grandma Huang from Fresh Off the Boat

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Her limited knowledge of English doesn’t stop Grandma Huang (Lucille Soong) from being one of the funniest characters on this sitcom. Always poking her nose into family affairs, she’s more than happy to help her grandchildren pull off pranks and make the neighborhood more fun in any way she can.

9-10. Ruby and Pops Johnson in Blackish

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Ruby and Pops (Jenifer Lewis and Laurence Fishburne) are wonderfully straightforward and wry in their sense of humor. They don’t always share the same opinions and world views as their grandchildren, but they’re never afraid to offer the best advice they have and feel very connected to their family’s affairs.

11. Royal in The Royal Tenenbaums 

Ever the sharp-shooting businessman, Royal (Gene Hackman) is set on proving to his younger family members that he’s changed from the shady, shifty businessman he once was. In this classic Wes Anderson film, full of stylized characters and tracksuits, Royal becomes a lovable example of a man reclaiming his independence and sense of self at an older age.

12. Koro in Whale Rider

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A breakout 2002 film from New Zealand, Whale Rider is a beautiful story that shows a granddaughter’s quest to be accepted by her traditional grandfather. Koro (played by Rawiri Paratene) is hesitant to accept his granddaughter’s wishes to be chief of their Maori tribe, since the role is typically held only by men. His granddaughter is determined to prove him wrong, and the journey is full of magic, connection and new ways of understanding.

13-14. Archie and Edith Bunker from All in the Family

In a famous first-season episode of Norman Lear’s prickly ’70s sitcom, Archie and Edith’s only child, Gloria (Sally Struthers), has a miscarriage, forcing the family to pull together and the Bunkers to mourn the loss of their first grandchild. Toward the end of the episode, Archie comforts his daughter in her bedroom with love and tenderness — qualities he rarely showed at other times.

Five seasons later, that kind side was allowed to resurface when Gloria gave birth to little Joey. While Edith was a natural with the boy, it took Archie a while to get with the program — changing diapers and singing lullabies wasn’t really his thing.

But with uncharacteristic patience, Archie learned the ropes and came around, even babysitting when the situation called for it (during poker games, no less). Ultimately, he was a good grandparent by any measure, and a great grandparent compared to what might have been expected of him.

15-16. Grandma Bev and Nana Mary in Roseanne

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Though Roseanne herself became a grandmother in the final season (pre-revival), Grandma Bev and Nana Mary were the primary grandparents for most of the show’s long run.

Masterfully played by theater veteran Estelle Parsons, the ever-present Bev was a parental nightmare — high-strung, demanding, and quick to criticize her daughters, Roseanne and Jackie. However, her relationship with her grandchildren was less contentious. While they often recoiled at her tone-deaf attempts to relate, Becky, Darlene, and DJ were more than welcoming of Bev’s gifts.

Less reviled was Bev’s mom, Nana Mary. The scourge of her daughter and an outspoken defender of her granddaughters, Mary appeared just once or twice a season. Still, Shelley Winters’ portrayal of this lovable, larger-than-life Bears fan was always a welcome addition to the family fracas, whether she was taking guff or dishing it out.


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